A Personal Introduction.
Whilst even today in places throughout the world the Native American remains ignored, repressed and fearful,
I remain fiercely proud of who and what I am. I am comfortable with it.
Expressed below are a few of my own personal thoughts.
Written with respect and no offense is ever intended.
When whitemen set foot on American soil some 500 years ago the Europeans were warmly welcomed by the Native Americans and treated so royally that the early arrivals thought that since they were being treated like gods, the Natives must be ignorant enough to think that they were gods.
The Native attitude was to treat the stranger as the Great Spirit in disguise. It was a similar philosophy to the one contained within the pages of the Christian Bible and encapsulated in many of it's stories. The difference was that the Native American actually lived out this philosophy whereas the beliefs and actions were kept in separate 'compartments' by the European. When the Native American referred to the white men as 'speaking with forked tongues' they meant something deeper than the white men's apparent habit of appearing to talk out of the side of the mouth!
The early settlers wanted to make treaties with the Native Americans, and offered gifts as evidence of their good will. But they were not content to share the land. They wanted it all, together with what it produced and contained. What they couldn't get by trickery and deceit was taken by force, by conquest and bloodshed. The fundamental difference was that the Europeans believed they could own the land and do with it as they wished, while the Native Americans believed they were the caretakers and that nobody could actually own the land.
In order to justify their actions, the settlers had to regard the Natives as ignorant savages who worshipped demons and whose lives were enmeshed in superstitions and forms of devil worship. "Indians" were thus a people to be conquered, subjugated and converted if possible - or banished or wiped out if not. It was a classic example of the successful use of character assassination and de-humanization as a psychological weapon of destruction.
Thus began the sorriest spectacle of genocide in recorded history - the destruction of an entire people and their way of life. When, by the middle of the 19th century, the many different nations finally capitulated, Chief Seattle of the Duwanish people, speaking on behalf of tribes living in the Northwest region of the United States, delivered a message to President Franklin Pearce whose government had proposed reservations where the Natives would be allowed to select their favorite valleys. His words are no less relevant today than they were then, and just as prophetic. His words were written down by a white settler who had learned the Duwamish language.
Here are edited extracts of what he said:
"One thing we know that the white man may one day discover: Our God is the same God. You may think that you own Him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the Redman and for the white. This Earth is precious to Him, and to harm the Earth is to heap contempt on it's creator.
When the last Redman has vanished from the Earth, and the memory is only a shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people, they love the Earth as the newborn loves it's mother's heartbeat.
If we sell our love, love it as we have cared for it. Hold it in your mind, the memory of the land as it is when you take it, and with all your strength, with all your might, with all your heart, preserve it for your children and love it as God loves us all. One thing we know, our God is the same God. This Earth is precious to Him...
We cannot buy or sell the sky, or the warmth of the land. We do not own the freshness of the air, or the sparkle of the water.
Every part of the Earth is sacred. Every shining pine needle. Every sandy shore. Every mist in the dark woods. Every clearing. Every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.
But to the white man one portion of land is the same as the next. The Earth is an enemy which is there to be conquered. He kidnaps the Earth for his children. He does not care. His appetite will devour the Earth and leave behind only a desert.
There is no quiet place in the cities. No place to hear the waves of the spring or the rustle of insects' wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, and the smell of the wind itself cleansed by the midday rain, or scented with pinion pine.
The air is precious to the Redman, for all the things share the same breath - the beasts, the trees, the man. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the smell of his own stench."
Chief Seattle said that if he signed a treaty he would make one condition. It was this:-
"The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. For what is man without the beasts? If the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons on the Earth."
In 1856, the treaties were signed and fourteen Native bands moved into their reservations. Three months later, as settlers and miners poured relentlessly into the treaty land, war again broke out. The spirit of the Native American was finally broken.
The Native American was a natural man, a true Earth man, for he saw the Earth as a paradise to be savored and enjoyed, and mankind as it's caretaker. Today, the United Nations stands as caretaker and peacemaker of the Earth and comprises representatives of all races and peoples and nations - except the Native American. No Native American has a seat among all the peoples of the Earth but remains rejected, ignored, unrecognized. Yet it is to the spirit of the Native American that the peoples of the Earth must now turn if the Earth is to be healed from the sickness that has been inflicted upon her and if mankind is to find harmony and peace and be restored to it's rightful role as caretakers of the Earth.
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(Music: "Color of the Wind" artist unknown)